Sorting through the ramifications of the NCAA’s new laissez-faire policy toward name, image and likeness opportunities will take years, if not a decade or more.
Yet, some red flags hit you between the eyes. For instance, the challenges of time management.
“As an educator, I do think it’s going to hurt graduation rates,” said Jonathan A. Jensen, assistant professor of sport administration at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “I don’t think a lot of people have talked about that.”
Big-time college athletes, especially in football and men’s basketball, already have the bulk of their waking hours scheduled for them. In addition to classes and study hall, there’s practice, games, walk-throughs, travel, weight training and conditioning.
Free time has always been at a premium. Now, for the first time, individual marketing opportunities will be vying for athletes’ attention.
“If I have a student who has a decision to make, either study for a quiz or test or post a TikTok that they’re going to get paid $1,000 for, my guess is they’re probably not going to study,” Jensen said. “That increases the probability they’re going to leave without a degree.”
As Jensen points out, the lifetime value of a college degree can be in the low seven figures. If only about a third of Americans have a college degree, failing to make the most of an athletic scholarship by earning a degree is a crushing blow to one’s future career prospects.
“You’re messing around and taking time away from academics to make a few thousand dollars,” Jensen said. “You’re getting a few thousand dollars and you’re missing out on a degree that’s worth millions. That’s one thing I’m worried about.”
Group licensing is the NIL piece that could level the playing field in terms of earning potential and off-field branding opportunities. If done thoughtfully, it should also lessen the temptation for the mid-range college standout to neglect his or her studies in favor of a quick payday.
Jensen cites athletic directors such as Notre Dame’s Jack Swarbrick and North Carolina’s Bubba Cunningham as major proponents of the group licensing push.
“They’ve said, ‘We need to focus on the only scenario here that takes zero amount of time away from student-athletes,’ ” Jensen said. “All they’re doing is licensing their name or image. Everybody gets basically the same.”
Not only does that protect a fragile team dynamic, where star quarterbacks could engender even more jealousy than normal, but it removes the temptation to overcommit one’s time in the name of branding opportunities.
To say nothing of the tax bill that awaits the following spring.
“If every football player in a video game will get, say, $1,500, the athlete can opt in or opt out,” Jensen said. “If he opts in, he can say, ‘Put my image in a video game. Send me my check.’ “
The question then becomes: How many of those same student-athletes will have the discipline to say no to the borderline earning opportunities coming their way now?